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No. 11 Illinois takes on No. 6 Iowa in the second round of the Big 10 Tournament from Chicago on Thursday night. The Illini are coming off an overtime win over Northwestern. In their only meeting of the season, Iowa destroyed Illinois on Jan. 20, 95-71.
Illini rally behind Giorgi
You may not be able to pronounce his name or spell it but Giorgi Bezhanishvili. The 6-9, 235-pound forward from Rustavi, Georgia racked up 26 points in the Illini’s 74-69 overtime win over Northwestern in a state rivalry from Chicago on Wednesday. The freshman shot 12-of-15 before fouling out in a striking performance considering he didn’t attempt a three-point shot. In fact, Illinois won despite making just 5-of-15 from beyond the arc. Guard Trent Frazier added 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting (3-5 3pt). Freshman sensation Ayo Dosunmu was held to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in his hometown.
Illinois is a scary team to play if their freshmen are on their game. They are similar to Maryland in that they have to rely on players like Frazier as well as freshmen like Dosunmu (13.7ppg, 3.1apg) and Bezhanisvhili (12.5ppg, 5.2rpg). On the season, Illinois was 1-9 on the road, so winning in Chicago is at least a step. They average 73 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting (34.9% 3pt). The defense hasn’t always been there as they allow 75 points per game (267th) on 46.1 percent shooting (303rd) and 32.3 percent 3-point shooting (68th).
Iowa is needs to turn things around
Iowa is expected to make the NCAA Tournament (Patrick Stevens has them as an eighth seed) considering they went .500 in the very strong Big 10. But they’ve lost four straight, including a stunning collapse at Nebraska to end the season, 93-91 in overtime. They had a nine-point lead with 50 seconds left in that game. Jordan Bohannon led the Hawkeyes with 20 points, while freshman star Joe Wieskamp added 14 points and eight rebounds.
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 13, 2019
The good news for Iowa and their (at times) volatile coach Fran McCaffery, is that a new season starts on Thursday. They can try and forget that they lost three of their last four by double digits or that McCaffery was suspended for two of those games after verbally going after an official in a tunnel after the Hawkeyes lost by 20 points at Ohio State on Feb. 26. Fortunately, Iowa has Tyler Cook, who averages 15 points and 8.1 rebounds on 53.4 percent shooting to lead the way. In order to advance, Iowa needs to play better defense. They allow 74 points on 44.6 percent shooting (32.5% 3pt).
- 0-8 ATS last 8 overall.
- 0-4 ATS last 4 after a SU loss.
- 0-7 ATS last 7 after an ATS loss.
- 4-0 Over last 4 neutral site games.
- 9-3 Over last 12 after a SU win.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Even though Illinois is coming off an overtime game, I’m taking the Illini in this one. Something is wrong with Iowa right now and it starts on the defensive end. Illinois is too young to even understand the pressure, because it’s not on them. It’s on Iowa, who is in the NCAA Tournament but could be heading towards an 8th seed or even worse.
Full-Game Total Pick
Illinois has to play fun and loosey-goosey. Iowa is tense but they love to push the ball. They average 79 points per game, so offense isn’t the issue. Defense is the issue for both teams. It doesn’t matter that Wednesday’s game was low scoring for an overtime contest because that was all about Northwestern’s slow pace and poor shooting.